Situation Maldives – A month ago, Maldives declared state of public health emergency for the first time ever due to the global spread of COVID-19. On Friday, Minister of Health announced the extension of the state of public health emergency till 30th April 2020. Furthermore, closure of all educational institutions has also been extended to an additional week from 12th April 2020 onwards.
The government of Maldives along with the health professionals have been overseeing the situation while implementing all necessary precautions. On 01st April 2020, a curfew was imposed in greater Male’ area between 17:00 hours and 20:00 hours every day, from 02nd April 2020. However, on 09th April 2020, the Director General of Public Health announced the discontinuation of the curfew. Despite the curfew being lifted, groups of more than three people are still not allowed outside.
Maldives saw a total of 19 positive cases within the one month, out of which 13 individuals have recovered as of now. With more than 1000 individuals currently quarantined and a number of Maldivians returning to the country, the government has also announced plans for additional quarantine facilities.
To ensure the well-being of all Maldivians affected by COVID-19, rescue flights for those stranded abroad and wishes to return home are being carried out by Maldivian airlines. Moreover, care packages are being taken to families abroad during the special flights, with over 08 tonnes of goods flown to Srilanka alone. In addition to the rescue flights, Maldivian has also been operating cargo flights to Bangkok, Dubai, Colombo, Trivandrum and Chennai.
The embassies are working in collaboration with Maldivian. The priority is to transport home the people facing the direst of circumstances or those who lack any options. For example, to transport home a person who travelled overseas on a temporary visit to seek medical care. The circumstances such a person faces are far worse than the families who reside there.”Mabrook Azeez, Government Spokesperson.
As the borders still remain closed for foreigners and the country is under a state of Public Health Emergency, a large number of resorts have ceased its operations for the time being. Universal Enterprises, Crown & Champa Resorts, and Villa Hotels are some of the many companies which has closed their resorts.
Tourism being the backbone of the country’s economy, the outbreak hit the Maldives hard. Bank of Maldives introduced an MVR 2.5 billion stimulus package to support businesses affected by the situation. This allows the receiver to a 6% interest per annum for a period of 03 years, including a grace period of 6 months during which principal nor interest payments will be required to pay. Small and medium scale businesses as well as self-employed individuals can avail loans through SME Development Finance Corporation (SDFC). Moreover, moratorium on housing loans, student loans as well as personal loans from Bank of Maldives can be availed.
On 08th April 2020, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih discussed the ongoing COVID-19 situation with the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom over the phone. The president expressed appreciation for the efforts of WHO in raising awareness and assisting in battling the pandemic. Although Maldives has not seen a community spread, the President emphasised that preparations have been initiated since January and were taken with the consideration of the worst-case scenario.
The world cannot be locked down for months. What we need to do is to find the ‘Safest tomorrow’ to travel. Therefore, safe ways to start traveling and safe markets to start with, a must be on top of our agenda.”Tourism Minister Ali Waheed said at UNWTO Global Tourism Crisis Committee meeting.
It’s no surprise that the global pandemic brought the travel industry to a halt. Hence, UNWTO brought together a Global Tourism Crisis Committee in order to support the world tourism. The Tourism Minister Ali Waheed was appointed the chair of South Asian Regional Commission of the committee. As the need for coordination and cooperation is vital in order to overcome the pandemic, holding regular virtual meetings will help in analysing and evaluating the situation across the world. UNWTO also introduced ‘Stay home today so you can travel tomorrow’ tagline promoted through digital media as the hashtag #TravelTomorrow.